In 2016, 1.1 million employees worked in traditional coal, oil, and gas job-related fields, and almost 800,000 people worked in low carbon emission generation technologies, including renewables, nuclear, and advanced/low emission natural gas, according to the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report.
Just under 374,000 employees work, in whole or in part, for solar firms, with more than 260,000 of them spending most of their time on solar, the report stated. Another 102,000 workers work at wind firms across the nation. Wind employment increased by 32%.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track jobs for the solar power industry. However, it does categorize solar industry workers in science, engineering, manufacturing, construction, and installation.
Scientists, for example, are involved in the research and development of new and more efficient materials, while engineers design new systems and improve existing technologies, according to the BLS.
Solar job growth in 2016 took place in all job sectors, including a 26% growth in manufacturing to 38,121 jobs nationwide, according to the Solar Jobs Census. Installation jobs increased by 14% to 137,133 jobs. Project development jobs increased by 53% to 34,400 jobs, and sales and distribution jobs increased by 32% to 32,147 jobs.
Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation, said last year's "dramatic increase in solar jobs" was directly related to rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and "unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations.
"More than ever, it's clear that solar energy is a low-cost, reliable, super-abundant American energy source that is driving economic growth, strengthening businesses, and making our cities smarter and more resilient," Luecke said.
Solar industry employers who were surveyed by the Solar Foundation expect to see total solar industry employment over the next year increase by 10% to 286,335 workers.
"As part of our commitment to sustainability and goal to be energy independent by 2020, IKEA is proud of its 44MW of solar arrays atop 90% of our U.S. locations," said Lars Petersson, IKEA's U.S. president, stated. "We are thrilled that our solar investment has helped contribute to rapid growth in the clean tech and renewable energy industry and the creation of quality jobs and a low-carbon society as a result."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.